Walking pneumonia, an atypical pneumonia caused by a bacterial infection, is a milder but lingering type of pneumonia. Although it is less serious than the life-threatening type of pneumonia, walking pneumonia still is a discomforting and contagious lung infection. Walking pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia in older children and teenagers. The main treatment for walking pneumonia includes rest, fluids and antibiotics. This treatment usually can be done at home.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by many things, including bacteria, viruses, fungi or chemicals. Other potential causes are mycoplasmas, infectious agents and foreign materials. When someone has pneumonia, fluid and pus from the infection fill the tiny alveoli sacs in his or her lungs, inhibiting oxygen from reaching the blood. Without oxygen, cells cannot function properly and begin to break down. Pneumonia is therefore a serious, life-threatening disease.
Atypical pneumonia, or walking pneumonia, is so called because the lung infection persists even after other symptoms, such as fever and sore throat, dissipate. It is characterized by a dry cough that worsens at night and eventually produces discolored sputum that might be streaked with blood. Other symptoms can include wheezing or crackles in the chest, chills, a skin rash, muscle aches and diarrhea.
Walking pneumonia is usually caused by certain bacteria, including Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydophila pneumoniae and Legionella pneumophila. The disease is spread through the air via tiny droplets from the nose and throats of infected persons. Community-wide outbreaks generally occur in the late summer and autumn every four to eight years. Treatment for walking pneumonia almost always includes antibiotics such as erythromycin, azithromycin, clarithromycin or tetracyline.
For a mild case, typical treatment for walking pneumonia might include oral antibiotics, bed rest and a diet of clear fluids. Severe cases might require a hospital stay, during which intravenous antibiotics and oxygen are administered. Most patients respond very well to antibiotics for walking pneumonia. Patients are advised to complete the full regimen of antibiotic treatment for walking pneumonia, to prevent the infection from returning.
After the bacterial infection is under control through antibiotics, patients who have walking pneumonia are advised to continue to recuperate with bed rest and fluids. The symptoms will improve rapidly, but full recovery will take time. Fever can be controlled with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Cough expectorants and suppressants should be avoided unless directed by the physician. To prevent infecting others, patients are advised to avoid public places until the infection has healed.